Wicked (Wisconsin) Wednesday Pt. 1: The Giant Spider Invasion

I miss home.

Yes I know I moved to a great country and a fantastic city, but some days you can’t help but miss home – even if it is a bit crap. So although I can’t go back the weird place I call home – Wicked Wednesdays are temporarily dedicated to my state of Wisconsin. Never has there been a more bizarre and unusual place. So why not celebrate by watching every horror movies ever set there?

According to Wikipedia, there are only 43 films that take place in Wisconsin. Most of those were not horror-related, and most were not filmed there. But why not start off with one of the worst that both takes place and was shot on location? That gam, of course, is 1975’s The Giant Spider Invasion.

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I have to admit I gave myself a break right off the bat. I couldn’t handle this low-budget piece alone. When I found out MST3K used this movie for an episode, I opted to watch their version instead. Let the two worlds collide.

The movie stars several familiar faces including the still-gorgeous Barbara Hale as Dr. Jenny Langer and the Skipper himself, Alan Hale Jr as the clueless sheriff. As the title explicitly states, there is an invasion of giant spiders who crash land in a rural Wisconsin town.

The meteor-like object lands in the field of married couple Dan and Ev Kester. They’re a rather disgusting couple. She’s an alcoholic (though I do respect a woman who cracks open a PBR for breakfast) and he’s a pig. Dan often chases around his wife’s underage sister Terry and is having an affair with the local barmaid. That makes the spiders probably the least repulsive thing about this movie.

As Mike on the Satellite of Love notes, “You know guys, I know this makes it all look pretty bad, but there are a lot of good things that come from Wisconsin… Like fireworks and cheese. And fireworks…”

Ev and Dan decide to see what happened to the object that crashed in their fields. What they find are plenty of dead Holsteins that have been torn apart. While Wisconsinites are usually fearless people, there are several things we do not abide by: dead cows. Nothing puts terror into a heart like a lack of usable beef and the end of cheese.

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Drs Langer and JR Vance head the scientific investigation. They are never notified about the giant spiders (which are still terrifying in their early tarantula phase) that are lurking about in the fields of Wisconsin. Would have been a bit helpful. They spend much of their time theorising about black holes and sharing this really long-running joke about having a cup of tea. They find it incredibly hilarious. I suppose it’s one of those inside jokes that the audience is just too clueless to be included in.

But these two are clearly the heroes of the story. Even though Dr Vance is a massive sexist (he doesn’t believe that Dr Langer could possibly be a scientist), the two forge a small romance. They are always talking in sciencey-speak so I really never paid attention to their bits.

There is only one giant spider in the end. While it looks slightly ridiculous, there has to be a bit of respect for the creative way they made the insect. The production crew dressed up a Volkswagen Beetle with giant legs. The car was made up backwards to that the lights at the back could act as the red eyes for the monster. Pretty clever, actually, for a time without excessive CGI.

Mind you, throughout the entire film there is a subplot with this crazy preacher. He tells his followers about how the end of days is coming. I guess it comes in fire, brimstone and spiders. His words are repeated throughout the movie. I don’t entirely know his point but he certainly brings the feeling of impending doom.

This doom never really comes until over half-way through the movie. There are several characters that are picked off, but most of them who die are not even in the main cast. Some you only see die. So when you see mobs of people going after the spider, there is hardly any terror involved because it’s difficult to give a damn when you watch faceless humans get picked off.

To be completely honest, the ending was really confusing. Whenever there is any sort of science-related speech going on, my mind tends to automatically shut off. Thankfully Wikipedia offered some sort of insight:

“The invasion is deduced (with various scientific-sounding language) to be the result of some sort of interdimensional gateway, and is ultimately thwarted when Drs Vance and Langer manage to close off the gateway, draining the spiders of their energy and causing them to melt into puddles of disgusting sludge.”

And the entire time I thought they were just planning to blow up the big spiders. Shows how much I pay attention to these things.

This film was the typical struggle, but still remains laughably enjoyable. I honestly don’t know if I could have gotten through it without the crew of the Satellite of Love. There is still a labour of love that shows throughout. In many ways it feels low budget, but it probably took a lot to pull this off. I’d recommend it for a watch, though probably still to the Mystery Science version.

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But always remember: “Packers won the Super Bowl!!! Whoooo! Go Packers!”

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